Sewing Tips and Tricks, Uncategorized

Buttons! And how to make them not scary.

Hey Rad fans! So you’ve seen the new Buttercup top and dress right?  Buttercup is a fabulous knit top with a fun feature -BUTTONS!



Now, I get it, buttonholes and buttons can be quite daunting if you’ve never done them before. But don’t worry! We’ve got your back. I’m going to walk you through putting on a button and sewing a buttonhole.

I use a modern brother machine, if your machine is older or from a different brand, you may have to pop out that old manual and look things up. Keep on reading, I have a few tricks in here that could make your button process easier – no matter what kind of machine you use.

My tutorial assumes you’re sewing a long with me, but if not just disregard the pattern specific stuff. At the end, I’ve included a video to help if you’re still a bit lost.

Ready to get started? You’re going to need a few tools: something to mark fabric – pins, chalk, disappearing ink, your choice! – buttons of course, your buttonhole presser foot, a button foot, thread snips or a seam ripper, a few straight pins, good newer thread, and optional but highly recommended, some tear away embroidery stabilizer.

I recommend using good newer thread because, like fishing line, when thread is on a spool too long it holds the spool shape. Fishing line won’t cast properly, it comes off in coils instead of straight. Well, thread does the same. And when it comes off in coils it frequently skips stitches and doesn’t behave properly. In a straight seam this isn’t -that- bad but in a buttonhole it can and will make buttonholes fail.

After you’ve cut out your fabric grab a front bodice piece, we will be marking our buttonhole placement now. Buttonhole placement is largely based on personal preference. While the Buttercup does include a placement chart, think of it more as a guideline than set in stone. However you choose to mark your buttonholes, follow the placement chart for now. This can of course be changed later.


Now we part ways for a little bit, head to your machine and follow the directions until step 8. This will leave you with your neckline done and an interfaced placket. I’ll be ready for you when you get back!

Done? Yay! Let’s continue shall we? Now, the directions will have you start sewing those buttonholes right now – but let’s slow things down a bit and test our placement. This is a completely optional step but only you know your body. I for one know I often


need an extra button or two, as my boobs seem to have a vendetta against button downs…

Anyway! Pin your side seams at ½”. Put your bodice on and pin your center fronts together. The placket overlaps one inch, basically just lay the two plackets over each other. Pin top and bottom.


To test button placement pin your markings shut. Need more? Add a few more pins. Remove the pins holding the plackets together – leaving just your “buttons”. While looking in the mirror, move around, take a few deep breaths. Everything stay where it was supposed to be? Great! Let’s keep going! If not, adjust those “buttons” until you’re satisfied. If the original button placement worked for you, you’re good to go. If not you’ll need to adjust the spacing so everything is nice and uniform. Once you’ve done this once you’ll know your preference and can just go for it on all future versions.


Mark your placement on the WRONG side of the placket. I always sew button holes from the wrong side, because of the stabilizer trick I’ll be showing you shortly. A trick one of our lovely testers uses for marking buttonholes is to hole punch the placement guide and mark right through those holes. If you’ve chosen the standardized placement, this will help you stay super accurate! If you’ve customized your spacing, you’ll just mark based on your pins.


Now we get to sew those holes! Ready? Don’t worry, you’ve got this.


This is your buttonhole foot, yours may look a bit different, but this is fairly standard for most modern day low shank machines. Put your button in the slider as mine is, the slider will guide your machine in making holes the perfect size for your buttons. As for machine settings, on mine you just choose which style hole you want and set it for that. I chose 34, its rectangular with one round edge. Choose whichever hole speaks to you and suits your project – or go standard and choose the basic rectangle.

If you’ve never sewn a buttonhole on your machine before, I HIGHLY recommend sewing a test one to know how your machine stitches. In the case of my machine the stitching begins closest to you, heads back, then to the front, to the right and back and close. Knowing the order your machine stitches in is imperative to not accidentally stitching off an edge or in the direction you don’t wish to go.


A bit difficult to see, but there is a slider you must use when making buttonholes, the slider goes between the two upright pegs on the foot. If you don’t place it between these pegs your buttonhole will fail. Decide now if you will be doing vertical or horizontal buttons. The pattern recommends using vertical, parallel to the placket edge, whereas I prefer horizontal, perpendicular to the placket edge. Both methods have their own advantages and disadvantages. Vertical will reduce gaping, but can cause bunching in the placket when your body pulls on it. Horizontal will lay flatter, but can lead to gaping if you haven’t used enough buttons. The placket for the Buttercup is wide enough to successfully use either style, so choose whichever you prefer and get ready to sew!


Remember how I said you’d want some stabilizer? Here is where we use it! Stabilizer goes between the buttonhole foot and your project, so line up your project first, and then add the stabilizer square on top of your project.


The stabilizer will make for a stronger hole in the long run, buttonholes will hold their shape rather than stretching out and weakening when a well loved garment sees a lot of wear.

Lower your needle into your fabric and sew on that buttonhole! If you’ve set your machine to the appropriate stitch, put the foot on, and the slider is down between the pegs, your buttonhole should stitch beautifully. Just take your time, buttonholes are not the place to rush.

When the needle starts going up and down in the same spot your hole is done. Pop it out from under your machine and you should see something like this:


Pull off that stabilizer and keep on sewing until you’ve finished all your holes. Let’s open those holes up! Take a pair of straight pins, and pin right before the stitch line on the end of each hole. The pins help to keep you from cutting through the edge of your button hole when you’re opening them up. Use thread snips, or a seam ripper to slice open the hole.



Test to make sure your button fits through the hole, if not just open it up a teensy bit more. When all your holes are ready you get to sew on the buttons! To get the most accurate placement for your buttons, close the placket and pop a pin through each hole into the other side, positioning may have shifted a bit since you put your holes in. A good way to keep the buttons in place for stitching is to tape them on with a bit of scotch tape.


Button time! You can hand sew these on, or you can use your machine.



This thing is your button foot. The blue side is the front. To use this, pop a button under it and stitch it with a zig-zag stitch. You want to very carefully lower the needle into each of your holes to make sure they align properly. As soon as you’re good, stitch enough to make it nice and secure. If you’re using a two hole button, you’re done! If not just realign and repeat for the second set of holes.



Trim your threads, I like to knot them on the underside for a bit more security, and you’re good to go! Finish your remaining buttons, button it up, and go finish your shirt.

If you’re still a bit confused, I’ve made a video showing my process. It goes over everything we’ve talked about here.

Good luck on those buttons and we can’t wait to see your finished projects in the Rad Patterns Discussion Group!

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